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Harden leads Rockets to 96-82 win over Pistons

Associated Press Modified: November 10, 2012 at 10:46 pm •  Published: November 10, 2012

HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Rockets knew they needed to get back on track Saturday night after three straight losses.

When they learned they'd be without coach Kevin McHale against Detroit, they were even more determined to break the losing streak.

Harden scored 20 points, Omer Asik had 14 and the Rockets beat the winless Pistons 96-82 in their first game without McHale.

The team announced earlier Saturday that McHale was taking an immediate leave of absence to deal with a family matter.

Assistant coach Kelvin Sampson took over, and said before the game that he hoped the team would come together to win for McHale.

The Rockets did just that, using a third-quarter run to build a big lead and go on to their first victory at home. The Pistons fell to 0-7.

"It was good for us to come out here and get a win, especially for coach McHale and what he's going through," Harden said.

Jeremy Lin said it was a bit strange to play without McHale in charge of the team.

"It was definitely different," Lin said. "He's our leader. He's our voice. But coach Sampson did a good job coming in, and we played hard. Obviously we can't wait for coach McHale to come back. Everybody around here loves him to death."

Brandon Knight scored 16 points for Detroit and Greg Monroe added 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Detroit scored five quick points to get within four midway through the third quarter. The Rockets responded with an 11-2 spurt highlighted by six points from Harden to make it 69-56 with less than four minutes left in the period.

Harden was fouled on a layup he made after a nifty assist from Lin during that run. Harden slapped the padded part of the goal after the shot, and promptly knocked down the free throw for the three-point play.

Sampson, who was a longtime college coach before moving to the NBA, acknowledged that it felt odd to be working as a head coach again for the first time since 2008.

"I was nervous at first," he said. "I kept tonight in perspective. I kept thinking of Kevin and his family and what he's going through. That's something far more important than me coaching a game for the first time in (almost) five years."

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